I don’t know how many of you watched the 60 Minutes interview with former major league baseball player Jose Canseco. Canseco is the subject of a media flurry related to the release of his new book, Juiced : Wild Times, Rampant 'Roids, Smash Hits, and How Baseball Got Big delivered with aplomb by Regan Books, the publisher of other literary classics such as Jenna Jameson’s, How to Make Love Like a Porn Star.
First-of-all, it was no secret that Canseco used anabolic steroids. The interesting part to me, in his interview with Mike Wallace, was his revelation that he never would have been able to be a major league star without the banned substance.
Canseco hasn’t enamored himself to many former players since he left the game, as he has had a penchant for dropping names and other juicy tidbits to the press. It’s hard for me to have a lot of respect for a guy who violates the sacred trust of the clubhouse and writes a kiss-and-tell book, designed to make him some needed cake, while tearing down the reputations of other players, most notably Mark McGwire, as well as players like Rafael Palmeiro and Ivan Rodriguez, the latter two, teammates of Canseco’s in Texas. Interestingly, the owner of the Rangers at that time was none other than George W. Bush. Peter Vecsey, in his inimitable style, makes this little quip about that connection:
“According to Dr. Jose Canseco, then-Texas Rangers' owner George W. Bush had to know his team was a steroid factory in the early 1990's, sort of a "weapons of muscle-mass destruction." In his defense, the president said the documents may have crossed his desk, but were never authenticated by Dan Rather.”
I’m sure President Bush knew about the use of steroids, as well as much of the management and union brass that oversees the major league game. But like any corporate entity, it's easier to deny culpability, than to take the high road and admit that your overriding concern wasn’t the damage and potential affects that use of banned substances could have on the integrity of the national pastime, but the maximization of your profit from the product on the field, juiced, or not.
Former baseball writer, turned management consultant, Jeff Angus, has some interesting takes on the steroids flap at his blog, Management by Baseball. You can read one of them here.
Needless to say, Canseco’s revelations will be played down and major league baseball will try its damndest to continue to paint itself as purer than the driven snow.
Meanwhile, the use of sterioids will continue to be seen as ok by college players looking for a competititive edge, as well as high school players, seeking to emulate the major league players they see on their TV screens, making millions of dollars annually.
If you don’t think that’s a problem, then you probably haven’t been around the game very much in the capacity that I have. Steroid use is a problem even at the smaller college level and today’s 19, 20 and 21 year olds talk about them with a casual air of disregard. I know, because I coach college age players each summer and I’ve been around the game for the past 20 years, so I know a trend when I see one.
What I’d love to see is an honest addressing of the issue by major league baseball, with cooperation from the players association and the union. Until then, the problem will continue and it will tarnish what was once a wonderful game, that I enjoyed following.